April 17, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Trump Vetoes Measure to Force End to U.S. Involvement in Yemen War - Mark Landler and Peter Baker (New York Times)
    President Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday that would have forced an end to American military involvement in the civil war in Yemen.
    The U.S. provides logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in their uprising against the Yemeni government.

Egypt's Parliament Votes to Allow President Sisi to Stay in Power until 2030 (BBC News)
    Egypt's parliament has approved constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
    Sisi was due to stand down in 2022, when his second four-year term ends.

Iran's Parliament Labels U.S. Troops in Mideast as Terrorist (AP-New York Times)
    Iran's lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill labeling U.S. forces in the Middle East as terrorist, a day after the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran's Revolutionary Guard formally took effect, state TV reported.

Palestinian Suspected of Links to Terrorist Group Indicted in U.S. for Visa Fraud - Andrew Stanton (Boston Globe)
    A Palestinian man was indicted Tuesday in Boston federal court for lying to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers. Waad Alzerei, 19, arrived in Boston on Feb. 27 on a flight from Cairo, Egypt.
    Photos and videos on his phone indicated that he might have been affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas.
    Date-stamped photos showed him throwing rocks at the IDF with Hamas near the Gaza border.

West Bank Crossing Upgrade Speeds Passage for Palestinian Workers - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    The wait time for Palestinians crossing into Israel from Bethlehem has been reduced from up to 2.5 hours to six minutes, following checkpoint renovations.

Israeli Emergency Locator Beacon Enters Service with Royal Air Force - George Allison (UK Defence Journal)
    Israeli firm Elbit Systems' Emergency Personal Locator Beacon (EPLB), the first to be accredited on life jackets for unassisted operation in water, has made its inaugural operational flight on the RAF's Typhoon aircraft.
    In the event of an accident or aircrew ejection, the EPLB delivers emergency alerts to the international search and rescue (SAR) satellite constellation as well as homing signals to local SAR teams. This will enable quick and effective rescue of stranded aircrew, significantly increasing their probability of survival.
    The EPLB operates efficiently in all weather conditions and temperatures, for a minimum of 24 hours, across land and sea. It activates automatically upon ejection, meaning that even an unconscious pilot can be detected.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Dermer: Trump Peace Plan Will Take Israel's "Vital Interests" into Account
    Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer addressed a White House pre-Passover reception on Tuesday, saying, "A lot of people are concerned that the peace plan is going to be coming out soon. But I have to say, as Israel's ambassador, I am confident that this administration - given its support for Israel - will take Israel's vital concerns into account in any plan they will put forward."
        Dermer said that he's "optimistic" about the peace plan because "there is a real change in the Arab world" in their attitudes toward Israel "that some people haven't recognized." But "the Palestinians have to cross the Rubicon. It's going to be up to them."
        Dermer also thanked President Trump for giving Israel the backing "both in words and deeds" to defend itself from Iran in Syria. "You saw it in the decision recently by the U.S. that it would make it clear that it would stay in this important base within Syria, in al-Tanf," he said, and by Trump's recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Jewish Insider)
  • Israeli Court Approves HRW Official's Expulsion
    Human Rights Watch's country director Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen, will have until May 1 to leave Israel, according to a decision by the Jerusalem district court. "Those who call to boycott Israel aim their arrows at it, but the individuals living in it are the ones who pay the price of the boycott," Tuesday's ruling said. "It has been proven" that Shakir "continues to publicly call for a boycott on Israel or parts of it, while at the same time asking that it open its gates for him."
        Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said, "Boycott activists must realize that there's a price to their boycott activity against Israel and its residents."  (AFP-Daily Mail-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Publishes Map Showing Golan as Part of Israel
    The U.S. has published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Turn to Russia to Bypass U.S. Peace Plan - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    The Palestinians are urging Russia to play a greater role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they embark on an international campaign to bypass the Trump administration's peace plan, which is scheduled to be released in the coming months, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday. PA President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told Israeli journalists that any future peace deal should be concluded with the P5+1, such as was done with the Iran deal. This would include Russia, China, Great Britain, France, the U.S. and Germany. "We will never accept the Americans alone anymore," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Prime Minister: U.S. Peace Deal Will Be "Born Dead"
    New Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Tuesday that the U.S. peace plan will be "born dead." He told AP, "There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Israeli Arab Women Sentenced for Conspiring with Islamic State - Almog Ben Zikri
    A Beersheba district court on Tuesday sentenced two cousins, Tasnim and Rahma al-Assad, 20, from Lakia in the south of Israel, to four and five years in prison, respectively, for conspiring with Islamic State and aiding it in planning attacks in Israel. The women were members of several Telegram chat groups associated with Islamic State and were in contact with agents of the group.
        According to the indictment, Tasnim was in communication with "Sheikh Qassem," who works on behalf of ISIS and spoke to her about carrying out an attack in Israel. She expressed willingness to assist him. "Sheikh Qassem" asked Tasnim to examine the entrance and exit points of Ben-Gurion University, the central station in Beersheba and another local college. Tasnim told him that she wouldn't recommend the station as a target because many Muslims frequent it.
        Tasnim then told Rahma of the conversation, and the two toured the university and the college in order to collect information about the possibility of carrying out an attack via suitcases packed with explosives.
        The judge determined, "Their identification with this lethal group was expressed not only in the acts they planned to carry out, but also in their attempts to convince other participants in Telegram groups of the truth that can be found in the way of ISIS. This reflects how committed the accused were to the lethal group."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The West and Middle East Dictators - Walter Russell Mead
    Autocratic rulers have fallen in Algeria and Sudan. In both countries, ruling elites are now scrambling to satisfy angry throngs of protesters, but lack the technical competence, political coherence, and public legitimacy required both to impose the necessary reforms and to make them a success. The Middle East will have to find its own way, and the process is likely to be painful and prolonged.
        It is against this background that we must understand the political experiments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seem to have decided they cannot govern their countries by adopting the values and institutions of contemporary Western democracy. Instead they are following a strategy like that of the absolute monarchs and so-called enlightened despots.
        Western observers can and often must deplore the repression that the new authoritarians impose. But we have no solutions to offer. We may not like what these rulers are doing, but we do not really know what they should be doing instead. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)
  • BDS Leader Barghouti: "We're Not Ashamed to Have Armed Resistance" - Noah Pollak
    Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian leader of the BDS movement, has been barred entry to the U.S. In 2007, Barghouti founded the BDS National Committee, the leading group organizing and promoting BDS outside the U.S. The reason he was barred is because the group Barghouti runs includes five U.S.-designated terrorist organizations: Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front-General Command, the Palestine Liberation Front, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
        Barghouti himself promotes terrorism. Here is a video of Barghouti stating, "We're not ashamed to have armed resistance [terrorism] as well as peaceful resistance." Barghouti has stated his support for terrorism dozens of times. The writer is executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. (Commentary)
        See also BDS Is Not about Free Speech - Aaron Kliegman
    The BDS campaign is nothing less than a form of economic warfare against Israel meant to destroy the Jewish state. Its proponents, who do not believe in Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, seek to undermine Israel to the point that it effectively ceases to survive.
        Criticizing the Israeli government and even boycotting Israel to make a political stand are perfectly legitimate, albeit deeply misguided, actions. But the BDS movement is something different, something much darker. (Washington Free Beacon)

  • U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said Sunday during a visit to Israel that the goal of the U.S. designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group was to "make it radioactive."
  • "Now Iran stands accused of directly engaging in terrorism. This removes its plausible deniability - it cannot hide behind Hizbullah or Palestinian Islamic Jihad anymore."
  • The designation "enables material support [criminal] prosecutions" of "anyone knowingly providing support" to any entities linked to the IRGC, which can lead to an up to 20-year prison sentence. This crime is defined broadly under U.S. law and has led to over 150 convictions relating to other terrorist groups.
  • Sales said that the designation would empower the U.S. to deny entry to persons with links to IRGC entities, including those raising funds for the group.
  • He added that the fact that Hizbullah has been on a public fund-raising campaign in recent months signals that U.S. sanctions on Iran are having an impact - even forcing it to reduce its funding of its top proxy Hizbullah.